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Friday, January 22, 2010

Fringe Disappoints

It had to happen. Every show has a poorly conceived episode (Buffy's near rape scene with Spike, anyone? Like I believed for one second that was possible - sheesh) I should be happy it took a season and a half for my new darling.

The episode started out well enough. A new virus shows up that infects a building full of people, including Peter and Olivia, requiring them all to be quarantined while Walter comes up with a cure. Typical Fringe.

Even better, it has some inherent tension. We know someone we care about will be infected (thanks to the commercials, we knew it was Peter). We know Walter will have issues with his son's life on the line. We know the dynamics of the Peter-Olivia relationship will change. We even expect (and are given) a deepening of the relationship between Walter and Astrid. So far, so good.

About halfway through is when it all starts to fall apart. Walter thinks the virus wants to get out of the building and is biding its time not killing the victims until that happens. I have no problem with this.
Peter is infected and lies about it. I'm fine with that, too. If the virus wants to get out of the building, I would expect this kind of behavior from a victim.

Here's the problem. Here's where logic and common sense are sacrificed to create false tension in the story.

If the CDC trusts Walter enough to believe his test results for contamination, they should trust him enough about his theories on how the virus works. Those infected should have been quarantined immediately in a locked room with restraints and possible sedation to keep them and everyone else safe. This is the simple, logical solution, which though it might break some first amendment rights doesn't lead to snipers and murder.

Instead, the victims are left to roam the building without restraint and become a greater threat. That's stupid.

One of the victims throws herself out a third or fourth story window in an effort to infect people. OK. That's what leads Walter to form his theory about how the virus behaves.

Problem: why do the remaining victims congregate around the main floor safety glass windows trying to get out instead of just jumping out the windows higher up? Or the already open window, for that matter? Do they not think of it? Peter has an IQ of 190.

I'm not buying it.

When a victim is around uninfected people, his dying breath is some kind of red gas, presumably an airborne version of the virus. Yet, the virus isn't spread by air and this is said numerous times by Walter. It requires contact with bodily fluids. So why would victims kill themselves just to not deliver the virus? If the thing needs contact, shouldn't the victims latch on to someone and bleed on them before they die?


And last but not least - the fight between Peter and Olivia. You know for the writer of this episode, this is the climax of the whole thing.

Problem: why would Olivia draw a gun on a man she has no intention of killing and whose blood she cannot touch without infecting herself? Are we supposed to believe that she really would kill him to protect herself? I don't believe it. When she knows Walter has a cure and all she's doing is buying time, then that's all she has to do - buy time. She's not going to shoot Peter.

And I really don't believe Peter could best her in a hand-to-hand fight, even if he is virus-crazed and she's trying not to hurt him. In fact, since she's uninfected, he should have exploded all over her instead of knocking her unconscious and taking her gun.

It is not too much to ask that logical consistency guide character motivations, even characters we don't know, like the CDC guy. This writer started well, but JJ Abrams should have taken a stronger hand with the end of the episode and kept common sense at the forefront.

For example, everyone else could have been contained, and Peter, with his 190 IQ, could have escaped and become the real threat of infection. If Olivia deliberately infected herself so she could hunt him down and bring him in, tension would have been maintained and heightened, because then we would have worried about how long she had until she become a slave to the viral mind.

See? Consistent, logical and satisfying. That's how a story should be, from beginning to end.

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